Queeruption & the value of documenting and archiving hard conversations

Zine of the Gay

A few days after I decided to make this week’s blog post about Queeruption, I sent up a distress flare to QZAP: I wasn’t sure how to write about it in any kind of concise way.

Queeruption is a queer anarchist festival that’s had 12 editions in 12 locations between 1998 and 2017. QZAP holds materials on 5 of these: Queeruptions 3 (2001 in San Francisco), 4 (2002, in London), 8 (2005, in Barcelona), 9 (2006, in Tel-Aviv), and 10 (2007 on Coast Salish territory, Vancouver).

Here’s what Milo of QZAP said when I asked them for their help in thinking through how to write about Queeruption:

“Thinking about Queeruption, and the abundance of materials that came out of it, either officially or unofficially, and the number of folks who have been involved can be a little overwhelming.

One of the ways that I think of it is that it was (and this is my perception and experiences) intended to be a radical queer temporary autonomous space. Because it happened in multiple locations, and was leaderless, for the most part, each instance was a reflection of the needs, desires and situations of the folks who organized and hosted, while also trying to take into account the needs of all of the participants, as well.

All that to say, that’s why each one is different and might be hard to capture the zeitgeist in a single post. Also something something about liminality and the intentional places on the margins that we create and then collapse.”

Each edition of Queeruption grapples with its location in a particular way. In the case of Barcelona, this focuses on the politics of gentrification and squatting. For the event held on Coast Salish land, the event materials have a stronger emphasis on the historic and ongoing colonization of that land, and how to support Indigenous resistance. The fraught and contested relationship between Queeruption and its location is most evident in the materials for Q9, held in Tel-Aviv in 2006.

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When in doubt, it’s good to start by situating yourself. I’m writing this on the traditional territories of the Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk and Menominee peoples, in so-called Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. I live and hold citizenship on the other side of the border in Canada. I’m a white person with a Canadian passport, which makes it pretty easy for me to cross the border and come here. It’s probably easier for me to get to Tel-Aviv than it is for a Palestinian in Gaza to get there.

The Queeruption materials all make clear that the organizers and participants try, in various ways, and probably with varying degrees of success, to be in good relationship with the locations the events are held. As politically engaged people, they show a clear desire to add something to their communities via Queeruption that would last beyond the duration of the event. In Barcelona, the organizers squatted a previously unoccupied factory for the event. It had formerly produced synthetic leather, and attendees were invited to use the leftover materials to make jewelry, BDSM gear, or sex toy harnesses. The space was turned over for other use after the event, and best as I can tell, it still seems to house artist studios today. It’s extremely cool!

Map of the Queeruption Barcelona space

I don’t expect a queer anarchist party to solve all the problems of the world or the country or the city it takes place in. But part of reading about these events is inevitably picturing myself there. Would I have fun? Would I feel comfortable? If I felt uncomfortable, would it be in a productive way or just a shitty way? And what about my friends? Would they be able to get through the border? Would they be able to get through the door?

I generally feel like the answer is to organize more things, and fight to make more space at the current things, not that we shouldn’t organize anything if it’s not going to be perfect and magically exempt from all of the violence of the world that surrounds us. And also, to always remain curious and critical, to look at who’s in the room and consider who isn’t.

The Queeruption materials are cool because they show a community in the process of figuring out its collective values and how to align an event to them on the fly. Everything is provisional and up for debate. The way the Queeruption zines and materials present snapshots of this work is remarkable and precious.

The festival zine for Queeruption Barcelona reminds participants that to make the event successful, they needed to take part in “DJing, performing, dressing up, dancing, flirting, fucking, talking, laughing, and meeting new people… Wash your own dish, clean a toilet once this week, chop a carrot!! CONTRIBUTE!!! DON’T JUST CONSUME!!!”

To build the world we want to live in, we’re gonna need to chop a lot of carrots and have a lot of hard, messy community conversations. Consensus-based decision-making is pretty mind-boggling if you’re not used to it! It can be really seductive to want someone else to do all the work, and just be able to show up to a fully-realized event. But learning how to work together and talk it out and compromise, how to build in a way that’s really different from capitalist ways of gathering, how to sometimes take space in illegal or unauthorized ways.

Documenting this work gives us something to build on, and shows us some things that are possible but that we may not have considered. And archiving this documentation means that the work and conversations can spread far beyond the time and space of one event.

Lee P is interning at QZAP in spring 2024. Ze is a long-time zine maker, and hir current project is Sheer Spite Press, a small press and zine distro. Originally from unceded Algonquin land, Lee calls Tiohtià:ke // Mooniyang // Montreal home. Ze’s also a member of the organizing collective for Dick’s Lending Library, a community-run, local library of books by trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit authors.

Militant prancing pagan homos: Queer zine parties in the ‘90s

Zine of the Gay

The zine BLOT #2, laying atop a pink mesh shirt, on a dirty black and white checkered floor. Printed on white paper, the half-letter size zine has an image of a child's face, with the word "ASEXUAL" across it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia as I spend time in the QZAP archive. My posts this week and next will be about items in the archive that relate to events with a queer zine focus. And it’s really hard to read these materials and not to feel envy those who got to attend them.

Issue #2 of the zine BLOT is held in QZAP’s archive, but not digitized. The zine documents two queer events that took place in Toronto in 1993. I grew up in rural Ontario, about 5 hours away from Toronto, and was 6 years old in 1993. The place I grew up in was pretty bad for weird little fruity kids, and it is bittersweet to read about events that were happening in my lifetime and in a place not too terribly far away, but that were nevertheless worlds apart from my own experience.

SPEW was a queer zine event that took place 3 times in the early ‘90s. The first edition was held May 25, 1991, in Chicago, the second, February 28 – March 1 in LA, and the third and as far as I know, final, version, took place May 15 and 16, 1993, at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto.

There’s a really cool little documentary about SPEW 1 that’s available online:

Steve LaFreniere, the organizer of SPEW1, was stabbed in the back by homophobic passers-by on the street after one of the SPEW events, but fortunately, he recovered. It’s always important to temper your nostalgia with a realism about ways that things were also more or differently fucked up in times past.

The SPEW 2 writeup that I linked above opens by quoting the words that appeared over the door of the event, which would definitely make me pretty darn hyped for what was to come:

“GAY TO QUEER- Begin to revel in your sexuality. Trained, disciplined, butt fucking, cunt spreading, militant prancing pagan homos. No apologies. No compromise.”

Text reads "“It’s accessible and cheap. Zines, videos, performances, weird shit, party with live bands. A homocore alternative-queer thing (this is not a “convention”)” There is a handwritten annotation, "Hey!" with an arrow.
From Queer Zine Explosion #7

SPEW 3 is previewed as follows in Queer Zine Explosion #7, an issue of the handout published by Larry-Bob Roberts alongside his zine Holy Titclamps:

“It’s accessible and cheap. Zines, videos, performances, weird shit, party with live bands. A homocore alternative-queer thing (this is not a “convention”)”

BLOT #2 describes SPEW 3 as including “an informal round table discussion on zine production, [including] distribution [and] low cost production,” including QZAP’s own Chris Wilde! There was a zine fair the second day with “close to 60 different zines”, and readings from Charlie from MATCH and Lydia Landstreet. I couldn’t find anything online about MATCH or Lydia Landstreet, but I’d be curious if anyone has info on them!

The evening event sounds like a lot of fun, with “a two-member noise group from Michigan called MATCH, and Toronto’s own Ignatz and Chicken Milk (now know as Venus Cures All)”, as well as “a snack table… with mostly vegetarian food”, “a slideshow of ‘50s lesbian trash novels and other queer media”, and TVs playing Bruce La Bruce’s No Skin Off My Ass and “videos about Toronto punk, Crash’n’Burn and Not Dead Yet

BLOT #2 also documents a queercore party on Saturday August 15, 1993, also in Toronto, featuring screenings from GB Jones, and performances from Daddy Carbon (who I also couldn’t find anything out about) and, again, Ignatz. The author of BLOT notes that it was “really nice to see fags and dykes together having fun and to see a pretty equal split between girls and boys.”

The best answer to what to do about nostalgia is usually to try and identify what in particular you’re yearning for, and to figure out ways to bring that about in your present and future life. That’s a tall order for a messy, sweaty, sexy queer in-person gathering, from the perspective of 2024, year 4 of the forever pandemic. I’m sure there’s still lots of events of that description going on, but they’re less accessible than ever to my disabled friends and dates and comrades. How can we build events and gatherings that capture some of the feeling of events like these, but that are adapted to make space for as broad a swath of queers as possible, in an ongoing pandemic?

Next week, I’ll be writing about Queeruption, a radical queer gathering that’s taken place 12 times between 1998 and 2017. QZAP’s archives have materials from five of these, as far as I can tell. Let’s see what we feel nostalgic for, and what we’d like to leave in the past.

Lee P is interning at QZAP in spring 2024. Ze is a long-time zine maker, and hir current project is Sheer Spite Press, a small press and zine distro. Originally from unceded Algonquin land, Lee calls Tiohtià:ke // Mooniyang // Montreal home. Ze’s also a member of the organizing collective for Dick’s Lending Library, a community-run, local library of books by trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit authors.

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